Litchfield verdict
Litchfield verdict

Four teenagers have been found guilty of manslaughter but acquitted of murdering Mandurah sailmaker Tauri Litchfield.

The verdicts, which saw a fifth teen acquitted of any charges, comes after a four week trial last month and just a year after the 28-year-old died from head injuries following a fall as he ran from the group of boys.

This morning, Children's Court president Denis Reynolds said four of the teens, aged 15 and 16, were guilty of manslaughter because they had engaged in threatening and intimidatory behaviour that caused Mr Litchfield to run and go over a wall, fatally striking his head.

It was not an accident, the judge ruled.

The acquitted teen, aged 15, will be released from custody after spending a year in custody awaiting trial.

Judge Reynolds said he was not satisfied the acquitted boy had taken part in the intimidatory and threatening behaviour, attempt to touch Mr Litchfield, or influence his decision to run.

The boys had been charged with murder, with alternatives of manslaughter and assault causing death.

Families for the boys and also Mr Litchfield watched silently in the courtroom as the verdict was delivered.

The State had alleged that they caused Mr Litchfield's death by chasing and herding him when they came across him as he made his way home from a Mandurah festival on March 17 last year.

The prosecution case alleged a 14-year-old tried to pickpocket Mr Litchfield as he walked along Pinjarra Road, prompting the 28-year-old to slap the teenager over the back of the head.

The boys had punched him before Mr Litchfield ran to get away, running through traffic and falling or tripping over a ledge, striking his head on bitumen. He died later that night.

Defence lawyers had emphasised their clients’ young ages and argued Mr Litchfield’s death was not foreseeable and was not sufficiently linked to the alleged chase because he chose the path he ran and was not controlled by the youths.

A sixth boy had charges dropped during the trial.

The four guilty teens were remanded for sentencing on April 24.

In his 84-page judgment, Judge Reynolds said while Mr Litchfield had slapped one of the teens when they reached to his back pocket, his action had been provoked and proportionate.

But the now-15-year-old's angry response in punching Mr Litchfield was an assault, the judge said, ruling that the teen had then wanted to continue the attack.

The judge said that despite Mr Litchfield making it clear he wanted them to stop, the four boys had "chased Mr Litchfield for the purpose of further assaulting him" and thay what had happened was "an ongoing assault with each of the defendants intending to go on with it if he caught Mr Litchfield".

The four guilty teens were remanded for sentencing on April 24.


Family response

Tauri Litchfield's sister Kirra Litchfield said outside court that the impact of her brother's death was indescribable.

"It's something that you never know whether life has prepared you for until you are knee deep in it," she said, joined by her father Clive Litchfield and Tauri's partner Lisa Emes.

"At the end of the day the sad reality is that no outcome that could have come from this trial would actually give us what we wanted and that is for this to never have happened - for us to have Tauri back."

Ms Litchfield said that despite this, and the fact that no outcome would ever seem completely "fair" given their loss, her family felt the court had taken a considered approach and the verdicts were the best they could hope for.

"There were no surprises... we also understand that this case is not a black and white case, it's very complex," she said.

At times the family had felt that Tauri had been on trial, with the defence suggesting during the proceedings that the 28-year-old had been drunk and aggressive that night.

But Ms Litchfield said she felt that in the end her brother was vindicated.

"Tauri did nothing wrong that night and it is not a crime to have a few drinks and go to the pub and walk home afterwards," she said before issuing a message to both children and adults in the community.

"People, whether you are a kid or an adult, need to understand that their actions have consequences and when you are aggressive or violent towards a person... you need to understand that those actions are directly threatening that person's life and there should be no excuses for that," she said.

This month's anniversary of the tragedy had come at an exceptionally difficult time as Tauri's family awaited today's verdict.

But they had each spent the anniversary doing something to remember the smiling, big-hearted and adventurous man who had loved the ocean and water sports, they said.

The family, who were based in Victoria, had partnered with the Reach Foundation to start a trust fund to raise money for youth programs in water sports and do something positive in memory of Tauri.

Ms Litchfield thanked police, prosecutors, family, friends and the community of Mandurah for their support and work on the case.

The West Australian

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